Our Story

A Sudden Gathering of Force

In 1996, a group of New York City artists, educators, and activists founded Groundswell based on the belief that there is something unique and powerful about the collaborative artmaking process. This process combines the sanctity of personal expression with the strength of community activism.

Groundswell’s programs are based on principles of individual, group, and community development. Collaborating with communities, we strive to physically and mentally build up the individual, group, and community during the making of the mural or other artwork.


Groundswell brings together artists, youth, and community organizations to use art as a tool for social change for a more just and equitable world. Our projects beautify neighborhoods, engage youth in societal and personal transformation, and give expression to ideas and perspectives that are underrepresented in the public dialogue.


A groundswell is a sudden gathering of force or a wave of energy surfacing from beneath the ocean. At Groundswell, we support the energy and stories hidden behind walls to be expressed on the walls.



Most Groundswell youth attend New York City public schools and come from low-income or working-class families. Annually, up to 1,000 young people, primarily aged 14 to 21, participate. Our participants are motivated to join our programs by public art’s connection to graffiti and street culture, to make new friends, express themselves, develop art skills, and work collaboratively.

Community-Based Organizations

Groundswell is New York City’s premier organization dedicated to advancing the practice of public artmaking. Community-based organizations, schools, and city agencies contact us to learn how public art can raise awareness of their organization, advance their mission, build community, and visually transform public space. We have collaborated with more than 300 organizations since our founding.


Local, established artists lead every Groundswell project. All have bachelors and/or masters degrees in fine arts and experience working with youth. Groundswell's artists are committed to the practice of collaborative community art and to using art to advance social change.